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Demolishing old spans can spur new growth

The aging Casey Overpass in Forest Hills is slated for demolition, one of several older spans in the Boston area that are being eyed for removal.
The aging Casey Overpass in Forest Hills is slated for demolition, one of several older spans in the Boston area that are being eyed for removal.PAT GREENHOUSE / GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

THANKS TO the Globe for shining a spotlight on plans to remove "unloved" overpasses ("Tear them down? Not so fast," Page A1, Aug. 23). Many old overpasses are barriers to commerce and divide urban neighborhoods. We should replace them wherever possible with active boulevards, streets, bikeways, and parks. These new urban centers can be shared by drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians — and they can create locations for thousands of new homes and jobs.

When San Francisco tore down the Embarcadero Freeway in the 1990s, people worried that traffic gridlock would result. That fear failed to materialize. Twenty years later, the waterfront formerly blocked by the freeway is thriving.

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Closer to home, a recent study in Kendall Square demonstrated that traffic dropped 14 percent in 10 years despite 4.6 million square feet of new development. Thousands of workers now flock to the formerly derelict square, most of them arriving by train, bike, or on foot.

Cities are complex places and one size does not fit all. That's why the city of Boston, Representative Michael Capuano, and local residents are working to create a plan for Rutherford Avenue that will meet the needs of diverse constituents.

Massachusetts must embrace a new program for growth in our cities. We must move beyond the highway overpasses of the '50s and create vibrant new spaces that encourage more people to leave their cars at home and travel by MBTA, bicycle, and on foot. We will generate more jobs, more homes, and better health if we don't let fear of change rule the day.

Marc Draisen
Executive director,
Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Boston